Alice Munro‘s short stories breathe life into the characters who are her focus. Dear Life is the thirteenth collection of this Nobel Prize winning author and, in addition to ten short stories there are four brief autobiographical works that she says ‘are the first and last – and the closest – things I have to say about my own life.
These accounts take us, for instance, back into her childhood where we meet Sadie, a maid who helped in the house when Alice’s mother was preoccupied with two young babies, or to a bout of sleeplessness after the removal of her appendix.
However, for me, it is the stories that are enchanting. Invariably they evoke Toronto or the farming areas around it or Lake Huron. For instance, we meet Nancy, a woman who is troubled about a mind problem and has arranged a doctor’s appointment. We travel with her through a Canadian landscape to a town that is twenty miles away as she is anxious to locate the doctor’s surgery before the appointment.
As we meet a helpful landscape gardener and, at his suggestion, move to the residential home to search for that doctor, we become increasingly aware that Nancy has problems with her short-term memory. Still, we are not entirely expecting the spectacular twist that concludes the story. And Alice Munro can do this again and again. This is what makes her writing stand out.